A couple of weeks ago, The Economist took a step back from discussing money, at least directly. The Economist article covered the devaluation of everything. What’s that? It’s the way marketing has crept into our lives to get us to buy product or otherwise influence us financially.
Let’s take the sizing of women’s pants. The Economist did a little research and found that:
… The average British size 14 pair of women’s trousers is now more than four inches wider at the waist than it was in the 1970s. In other words, today’s size 14 is really what used to be labelled a size 18; a size 10 is really a size 14. (American sizing is different, but the trend is largely the same.)
It makes sense if you think about it. Let’s say that Gap has their jeans a half an inch bigger than Levi’s. Some people are going to fit in the Gap at a smaller size than Levi’s and feel pretty good about how they look and buy those. It’s a competitive advantage. The Levi’s people aren’t going to take it lying down and are likely to leapfrog the Gap. So it continues for a number of years and all of a sudden you have size 10s that are size 14s.
The Economist points out some other examples. “Starbucks coffees are Tall, Grande, Venti or (soon) Trenta.” Notice there’s no small in there? Having worked at Papa Gino’s, a New England pizza chain, 20 years ago, I can tell you it was confusing when a customer ordered a small and the closest options were a kids size and a medium size. Also 5-star hotels have been replaced by 6 and 7 star hotels. “Standard” rooms have been replaced with “deluxe” rooms.
These are all marketing gimmicks to make the customer feel like they are getting some extra value. In reality they aren’t. It’s some kind of Orwellian Newspeak.
It doesn’t end with the products we buy. It’s also in our job titles. It’s far cheaper for your employer to give you a fancier title than a pay raise. The Economist gives an example of a “Director of First Impressions”, which is commonly known to be receptionist. Of course this is nothing new. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard anyone call a flight attendant a steward or stewardess. That’s one that’s always confused me. Why did we need to invent flight attendant and not meal attendant to replace waiter and waitress?
It’s as if we want to make sure that everyone feels special. Of course if everyone feels special no one is special. But hey, we live in a world where we have to protect everyone’s feelings. Students of New York Prep schools can’t celebrate getting into great schools anymore because they’ll hurt their classmates feelings. And a coach was forced to resign because he played more talented freshmen instead of the less talented upperclassmen.
It’s a messed up world and as the Economist put it, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. It’s here to stay. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?
CEO, Lazy Man Media